Saturday, June 8, 2013

Luk Yuen: Still the Best Noodle Soup?

Despite its dark past, Luk Yuen has risen again outside Glorietta 5.
Luk Yuen (pronounced Look You When by yours truly) has been an ancient family favourite for two dishes and two dishes alone: their Beef Brisket Noodle Soup and their Taro Puffs. Alvie, Dichie, her cousins, family friend Sean and myself were off to have dinner in the Glorietta area and so I took the opportunity to prove to Alvie (not a Luk Yuen believer) that this place was the supreme reigning champion of beef noodle soup.

luk yuen
Just like in Mien San, they start you off with fried dimsum wrapper. It's better with sugar, though.
I've tried the other food in Luk Yuen before and was not impressed, but before the main event, we nevertheless tried a couple of dishes that sounded delicious.

luk yuen
Sweet & Sour Prawn Dumpling Rice, P185.00
This one looked so much better in my head because I imagined that it was wet with sweet and sour sauce, not served with a lame sweet and sour chili type sauce on the side. We thought it was alright. There was a good amount of fresh shrimp inside the dumplings, but it was quite dry and even when dipping it, it was quite boring. The iced tea it came with wasn't bad.

luk yuen
Dumplings in Hot Chili, P180.00
This was good but we couldn't help to compare it with our favorite version of this, the Spicy Wanton from Mien San. In comparison, this had tougher meat and wasn't nearly as tasty. I would expect better from the 180 peso price tag. Now, for the moment of truth...

luk yuen
Beef Brisket Noodle Soup, P165.00
I have always held this dish in such high esteem that I figured mankind must have done something extremely good in the past and this is our reward. I imagine that if God himself were to give you noodle soup, it would pretty much taste like this. I have loved this for so long that I had even tried many different restaurants to see which can come close. The ones I remember are:
North Park - failed the test.
Hap Chan - failed the test.
Ling Nam - failed the test.
Zhu - failed the test but came close.
Mien San - also came close, failed the test only because they didn't have the chewy addictive egg noodles like Luk Yuen. It was better though in the aspect of meat, because they had tendon too.

Now, all my bragging about Luk Yuen can finally be validated, as I had Alvie try this bowl. As fate would have it though, there was no such validation, not even for myself. The meat was as good as I remember, except I recall it being more tasty. The broth wasn't nearly as bursting with flavor as it was before. Most importantly, the firm, chewy, yellow egg noodles, which used to be the best part, have now been replaced with pale, soft, soggy, angel hair-ish misua. I don't even like misua. :( (the soup kind anyway)

Childhood ruined. What went wrong? I asked if the noodles have changed because of this new alien texture, but the lady nicely said that the kitchen told her it was slightly overcooked. Now, I wish that were true, but it really seemed to me that these are different noodles altogether. I might give this another try to make sure, or I might not. Looks like the title of Best Noodle Soup is now a toss-up between Mien San and Zhu. I've always preferred Chinese noodles over Japanese, so I only consider that sort, despite Manila's newfound food craze. Ramen Schmamen!

Before we wrap this up, we still have one more favourite dish to test...

luk yuen
Deep-Fried Taro Puff (3 pcs), P100.00
All is not lost. Alvie and I were in agreement, too: they have the best Taro Puffs. It wasn't too heavy, it wasn't too light, it's texture, and even its flavor, were perfect. It goes great with the hot sauce it comes with, and I usually drip some soy sauce or chili sauce over it. Delicious! Well worth the 33.33333333... pesos per piece.

Fried Dimsum Wrapper: Okay, but hey, it's free. :)
Sweet & Sour Prawn Dumpling Rice: Okay
Dumplings in Hot Chili: Okay
Beef Brisket Noodle Soup: Okay (used to be Excellent)
Deep-Fried Taro Puff: Great!

I really hope the old beef brisket noodle soup is not totally lost. Have I just been in love with the idea of it? Have my standards changed? Possible, but I don't think so. I recently had another childhood favourite, Sbarro, and it still rocked my world. Haha. Thank you for bearing with my overdramatic reaction to our latest Luk Yuen trip. By the way, some Chinese folks (like Alvie and my friend, Miguel) seem to insist it's pronounced "Look Yen". Weird!

Love Luk Yuen? Hate it? Let me know by commenting below, or just tweet me!

The oft-mentioned Mien San:
Mien San Noodle House

G/F Glorietta 5,
Ayala Center, Makati City
(02) 856-5199 / 856-2081
Operating Hours:
Sun-Thu: 10:00 am - 10:00 pm
Fri-Sat: 10:00 am-11:00 pm
Facebook: Luk Yuen

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